On the News With Thom Hartmann: More than 3000 Americans Are Facing Life in Prison for Nonviolent Offenses, and More

Jim Javinsky in for Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. This week, Americans got a peak behind the curtain of the Trans Pacific Partnership, and what we found is frightening. On Thursday, Wikileaks published a complete draft of the “intellectual property rights” chapter of the TPP, and it poses a serious risk to free speech and information access. The document contains proposals that would change copyright and patent laws, so-called fair use practices, and the liabilities for alleged violations. The provisions would stifle innovation, creativity, and information sharing, all under the guise of protecting intellectual property. And, many of the proposed changes are being suggested by US negotiators. Opposition to these restrictive policies is coming from other nations, like Canada, Chile, Malaysia, and New Zealand. When our government has previously attempted to pass similar internet restrictions, like SOPA and PIPA, the overwhelming response from websites, online users, and other Americans forced our elected leaders to back down. That response is exactly why much of the TPP is being negotiated in secret, and it explains why US trade officials are asking to “fast-track” the agreement. Negotiators know that Americans would not support this deal, so officials want to push it through without even giving Congress the ability to amend it. Unions, civil rights advocates, environmental activists, and many other groups are demanding that the details of the TPP are made public. Before this massive trade deal is signed, Americans have the right to know what it contains, and the right to demand that our elected leaders say “No” to the TPP.

In screwed news… More than 3,000 people in our country are facing life in prison, without the possibility of parole, for nonviolent crimes. Many of them are locked up in states in which these harsh sentences are mandatory, and judges had no discretion in determining the length of their sentences. You may think that only the worst offenders could face such a tragic fate, but some of these inmates were locked away for stealing clothing, possessing drug paraphernalia, or having trace amounts of narcotics on themselves or their belongings. In addition to being overly harsh, these extreme sentences cost our nation nearly $2 billion dollars a year just to keep these nonviolent offenders behind bars. The ACLU issued a report on these unjust sentences, and they argue that it doesn’t have to be this way. The report states that there are many alternatives to locking someone away for drug related offenses, and that these mandatory life sentences should be abolished. Someone should not spend their life behind bars because of petty theft, or drug addiction, and tax payers shouldn’t be spending billions to impose these immoral sentences.

In the best of the rest of the news…

Republican lawmakers want to balance the federal budget on the backs of poor and middle class Americans, but Senator Bernie Sanders has a better idea. This week, Senator Sanders introduced a 10-point progressive budget blueprint, that outlines fair ways to raise revenue, reduce spending, and create jobs. The plan calls for closing offshore tax havens, establishing a financial transaction tax on Wall Street, ending tax subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, increasing the capital gains tax, repealing the remaining Bush tax cuts, and more. Senator Sanders said, “We must not be content with an economic reality in which the middle class of this country continues to disappear.” Rather than slashing Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, and other social programs, this progressive budget blueprint offers a plan to protect our social safety net. And, it would reduce income inequality, regrow the middle class, and stimulate our economy. The Sanders’ Progressive Budget Blueprint is the right plan for America.

According to RadCast.org, radiation levels around our nation are still spiking in some areas, but the erratic waves of radiation have finally begun to stabilize. Neat the East Coast, Fredericksburg, Virginia is seeing levels of 39 counts per minute, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is hovering at 34. In the West, Seattle, Washington is hitting 30 counts per minute, with spikes of 50. Some areas in the Midwest are seeing higher levels, with Frederic, Wisconsin getting readings of 49 counts per minute, and spikes of 77, and Colorado Springs hovering at 60 counts per minute. Radiation levels in Sitka, Alaska are higher than average, with spikes up to 51 counts per minute. RadCast.org reminds us that their alert level is 100 counts per minute, and they are monitoring our nation to keep us informed.

And finally… When a newspaper makes a mistake, it’s typical for them to print a retraction. What’s not typical, is for that retraction to be printed 150 years after the error. Despite the time lapse, the Harrisburg Patriot & Union Newspaper has finally issued an apology for an editorial dismissing the importance of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. In the original op-ed, dated November 19, 1863, the paper called Lincoln’s remarks “silly”, and predicted that they would be lost under a “veil of oblivion.” Obviously, the words of the Gettysburg address have become a sacred part of our American history, and that speech is revered for all that it represents. One hundred and fifty years later, the Patriot & Union admits that they “failed to recognize [the speech’s] momentous importance, timeless eloquence, and lasting significance.” As they say… better late than never.

And that’s the way it is today – Friday, November 15, 2013. I’m Jim Javinsky in for Thom Hartmann – on the news.